The term pedagogy is derived from “a Latin word, paidagogi, which was originally used to describe slaves that accompanied the Roman boys to school” (Korthagen, Loughran & Russell, 2006, p. 1031). The slaves were seen as both leaders and caretakers for the children. Today, the term is used to highlight the association between teachers and their students in a learning set up (Alexander, 2004). The meaning of the term pedagogy has ignited heated debate amongst scholars who have presented various meanings of the word. Contrary to the original definition of the term pedagogy, which was used solely to refer the act of teaching, modern scholars have attempted to differentiate between teaching and pedagogy (Edelenbos, Johnstone & Kubanek, 2006).
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The term is used contemporarily to describe all methods and strategies used during the process of teaching. Pedagogy links the actual act of teaching with culture and methods used in the process. This research paper will explain the best pedagogical principles and practices as outlined by different scholars in the available literature. The essay will explore the principles and practices of pedagogy with reference to the various theories that teachers should adopt as presented in the contemporary times.
Main pedagogical principles
Problem motivated learning
Learning is highly momentous and genuine when prompted and obtained in the process of struggle to resolve problems (Steinemann, 2003). Research indicates that problem-motivated learning helps students in the construction of knowledge coupled with boosting their ability to apply such knowledge in learning (Law, Joughin, Kennedy, Tse & Yu, 2007).
The principle of problem-motivated learning was initially applicable in medicine, but today its application has extended to other fields (Korthagen et al., 2006). The term ‘problem’ in this context refers to the common issues in textbooks that students encounter in the course of their studies. The problems are solved by applying certain scientific techniques (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013).
Integrating problem solving into learning can go a long way in encouraging students to do extensive research in search of knowledge. Problem-motivated learning should be designed in such a way that it encourages learners to read different materials available in the available libraries. The main idea behind problem-motivated learning is to assist students to discover and develop knowledge on their own without relying on their teachers (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006).
In the process of discovering and acquiring such knowledge, students interact with each other, thus acquiring knowledge ultimately. Problem-motivated learning is founded on the view that problems in textbooks can be solved through the application of various principles presented in the available literature (McWilliam & Dawson, 2008). Tutors should avoid giving direct solutions to problems; on the contrary, they should let the students search solutions to such problems on their own (Edelenbos et al., 2006). Implementing problem motivated learning requires teachers to recognise the desired outcome of the methodology used. Teachers should only give students problems that trigger research on their part as opposed to problems that may kill their learning morale.
Collaborative learning refers to a method of teaching that involves teaming students into groups and encouraging them to work in teams in the exploration of a certain problem (Alexander, 2004). This learning method brings together different ideas during problem solving. In a collaborative learning setting, students should be individually responsible for their own work even though teachers ought to assess group work as well.
Collaborative learning encourages students to share their strengths coupled with affording an opportunity for the weak students to improve their skills (Russell & Loughran, 2007). Teachers ought to predesign clear learning objectives to guide the learners through the course (Korthagen et al., 2006). The objectives should aim at improving each student’s performance through discussions. For such groups to work effectively, the following factors should be considered. Firstly, the groups should not be too large for such a scenario would deny some members the chance to contribute to the discussions (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006).
Secondly, teachers should only give tasks that are within the students’ ability to perform. In other words, the tasks should be doable, but challenging (Law et al., 2007). Research indicates that students involved in collaborative learning groups achieve superior levels of thinking and they possess a tendency to have higher memory capabilities as compared to those working individually. In implementing collaborative teaching, teachers ought to design group goals in advance and specify individual and group responsibilities.
In addition, follow up is an important aspect if the groups are to achieve the set goals (Edelenbos et al., 2006). Teachers should make constant appraisals and compare each group’s achievement with the set norms. Such appraisals are helpful, since they help teachers to detect deviations at the initial stages. In case such deviations are noticed, teachers can rotate the groups or alter the original norms (Norton & Toohey, 2004).
Interactive learning involves the interaction between learners and teachers (Alexander, 2004). Just like in the case of active learning, “interactive learning can be at the physical, linguistic, or mental levels” (Russell & Loughran, 2007, p. 113). Research indicates that living things learn by acting upon the physical environment and from response. For example, learning through conversations is a form of interactive learning at the linguistic dimension (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013).
However, the aforementioned form of interactive learning may not entail a high level of interaction at the mental dimension. The Socratic interview utilises linguistic communication to engender a high degree of interaction involving two minds. The form of interactive learning in PBL is mainly the linguistic and it takes place between peers. Active learning challenges students to mould techniques and mind-sets, which revolve around the scientific field coupled with availing opportunities for learners to link theoretical ideas to their factual world applications and gaining practical skills relevant to their course.
In so doing, they grow acquaintance that endures beyond the course coverage in which it was obtained. Interactive learning assists students to discover new ideas not to mention that it increases their analytical thinking capabilities. Interactive learning revolves around a student-centred setting and if well implemented, it can help to raise the students’ morale. It also encourages students to think analytically and go beyond facts and details (McWilliam & Dawson, 2008).
Active Learning Techniques
Active learning denotes a set of techniques designed to encourage the students’ participation in the classroom (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006). Active learning involves the students’ interaction with their teachers as opposed to listening to a lecture. Learning tends to be highly authentic and interesting when all stakeholders are involved actively in the learning process (Law et al., 2007).
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Active involvement is an important pedagogical principle and it can boost the students’ performance if well implemented. Similarly, in order for the principle to be effective and consistent with pedagogy, the actual meaning of the term active involvement has to be clear to its implementers. Even though numerous active learning techniques are designed to encourage the students’ participation in the classroom, the most effective and commonly used are designed to encourage independent learning.
The idea behind active participation in class is to encourage every student to participate and assist teachers to assess the understanding of a topic. Active participation alters the traditional nature of learning, which is usually teacher-centred, into a student-centred classroom (Norton & Toohey, 2004). In an active learning setting, students may be given an opportunity to input their ideas on what to learn as opposed to the teacher being the sole decision maker on which topic to cover in a lesson.
Effective implementation of this technique requires teachers to design a systematic course outline in advance to guide students in the active participation sessions. The predesigned outline guides students through the process and encourages independent learning. The guide should be designed in such a manner that it follows certain sequence towards topic coverage. Conventionally, the simple topics should precede the difficult ones in a bid to increase the students’ catch-up and easy follow up (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013).
Alternatively, active learning techniques may be introduced by altering the seating arrangement for students. Students may be subdivided into twos before interacting, consulting, and challenging each other in the course of solving a problem (Russell & Loughran, 2007). Active learning requires healthy relationship and engagement between the teacher and students. In addition, the teacher should identify the strategies to use in order to predict a cognitive routine that the learner will employ when trying to execute an assignment that the tutor has devised for a specific lesson (McWilliam & Dawson, 2008).
Considering that a student may not get simple exercise to execute at all times, it requires the tutor to alter the active learning systems to improve the cognitive growth of the learner. In addition, the students’ ability to execute certain tasks may vary from one individual to another. Some learners are philosophical and they opt to work solely, while others prefer working in groups and value consultations with other students. This variation prompts the need for teachers to keep on changing active learning techniques for the benefit of each student to boost the overall outcome (Alexander, 2004).
Children and young adults are conventionally programmed to uncover role models from within their seniors (Norton & Toohey, 2004). If possible, a child will obviously adore an instructor and try to impersonate him/her. In addition to imitating teachers, children will tend to imitate fellow students. The benefits accruing from such imitations largely depend on the constructiveness of the peer culture (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013).
The personality of an individual teacher will largely influence the students’ selection of their role models. Therefore, teachers need to develop good relationships with their students. This goal can be achieved through teamwork amongst teachers. Research indicates that beneficial imitation boosts the students’ morale and increases their performance (Law et al., 2007).
Developing beneficial imitation can be achieved via promoting a peer culture within which knowledge acquisition is envied, selecting fascinating tutors in high-ranking positions, encouraging team tutoring where senior tutors can assist their subordinates perform certain tasks and even where junior teachers have the capacity to perform them, personalisation of learning, and effectual use of praise (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006).
Frequent failure may affect the students’ morale negatively (Russell & Loughran, 2007). Although such failures should not be ignored, they should be avoided at all costs. One way of reducing chances of failure is by sequencing activities strategically so that the simple tasks precede the difficult ones (Alexander, 2004). Sequencing activities ensures that students go through the learning process in stages, thus minimising chances of failure in the subsequent stages. Learning activities ought to be designed consistently with the learning outcomes (McWilliam & Dawson, 2008).
Teachers and other instructors should break down the ultimate goals into small and manageable objectives that will take the learners through the learning process in a coherent sequence. Modern curriculums are designed in to follow a certain sequence, thus teachers must formulate strategies that takes care of the learning objectives (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013). For example, for a teacher to teach a student on long division, the student must be proficient in subtraction and addition, which reduces chances of memory failure.
Responding to the conceptual state of the student
An instructor is not only required to formulate suitable learning activities for his/her students, but also to assess their achievements constantly (Norton & Toohey, 2004). The achievement should be measured against the scheduled learning activities as formulated at the commencement of the course. The learning activities should be altered to suit the students’ needs if deviations are detected (Law et al., 2007). In addition to conducting constant reviews, teachers need to revisit constantly topics that students may have forgotten. Human memory tends to fade with time and such reviews can be effective tools for refreshing the students’ mind.
Pedagogy refers to the relationship amongst teachers, students, and other stakeholders in an educational setting. It involves the interactions between teachers and learners in an attempt to impart knowledge and skills to the latter. Pedagogy borrows from two major aspects, viz. the traditional ideas about learning, which describe learning as a biological and cognitive acquisition of uncontested knowledge, and the alternative ideas of learning that define learning as a cultural and social construction within communities of practice.
Teachers are the major determinants of the students’ success. Therefore, they have to possess the necessary skills and know-how to be in a position to accomplish set objectives. For teachers to achieve the best in their role as instructors, they have to consider certain pedagogical principles and practices. The major pedagogical principles that teachers need to consider include problem-motivated learning, interactive learning, active learning, and collaborative learning among others. Problem-motivated learning involves knowledge acquisition in the course of solving a certain scientific problem.
On the other hand, interactive learning involves active interactions between teachers and students in the classroom. Active learning involves encouraging students to participate actively in the course work. Implementing an active learning technique can go a long way in boosting the students’ performance if well managed. Lastly, collaborative learning involves organising students into groups for collective problem solving. Therefore, teachers should assess all the available pedagogical practices and choose the ones that meet the students’ learning needs for good outcomes.
Alexander, R. (2004). Still no pedagogy? Principle, pragmatism, and compliance in primary education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 34(1), 7-33.
Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: Designing for 21st century learning. New York, NY: Routledge.
Edelenbos, P., Johnstone, R., & Kubanek, A. (2006). The main pedagogical principles underlying the teaching of languages to very young learners. Web.
Korthagen, F., Loughran, J., & Russell, T. (2006). Developing fundamental principles for teacher education programs and practices. Teaching and teacher education, 22(8), 1020-1041.
Law, E., Joughin, G., Kennedy, K., Tse, H., & Yu, W. (2007). Teacher educators’ pedagogical principles and practices: Hong Kong perspectives. Teaching in Higher Education, 12(2), 247-261.
McWilliam, E., & Dawson, S. (2008). Teaching for creativity: Towards sustainable and replicable pedagogical practice. Higher education, 56(6), 633-643.
Norton, B., & Toohey, K. (2004). Critical pedagogies and language learning. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Russell, T., & Loughran, J. (2007). Enacting a pedagogy of teacher education: Values, relationships and practices. New York, NY: Routledge.
Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp.97-118). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press
Steinemann, A. (2003). Implementing sustainable development through problem-based learning: Pedagogy and practice. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, 129(4), 216-224.